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Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Weeknd closes Friday at Voodoo 2016

Posted By on Sat, Oct 29, 2016 at 1:43 PM

click to enlarge The Weeknd closed out the first night of the 2016 Voodoo Music + Arts Experience. - CHARLES REAGAN HACKLEMAN / VOODOO
  • The Weeknd closed out the first night of the 2016 Voodoo Music + Arts Experience.

The Voodoo Fest of 2016 is a different kind of festival than the one in 2006, or even 2015. Perhaps for the first time the "Experience" of the Voodoo Music + Arts Experience gets prime real estate, apart from the last few years' worth of art markets, art-like superstructures and mega-sponsored events under tents around City Park. This year, there's a haunted graveyard, two totem-like prayer candles spouting hot flames, and a new and less claustrophobic, walkable, easy-to-get-lost-in layout where booming basses blend to groups of coordinated floral-print bros to headliner stages that underline the "get weird"-ification of Big Fest culture.

The Weeknd's nihilistic future R&B was the perfect choice to close out its first night.

The stage times and new physical spread allowed for little, if any at all, sound bleed crowd to crowd. The Jared Leto-as-Joker (as Roger Klotz) homecoming of Bay Area rapper and former Loyola student G-Eazy on the main Altar Stage segued to Kevin Gates' replacements Rae Sremmurd on the next door Pepsi Stage, ping ponging to Reignwolf on the South Course Stage, then back to The Weeknd on the Altar Stage to close out the night. (Meanwhile, a world of overblown EDM seemed like a world away on the electronic-heavy Le Plur stage.)

Distorted synth soundtracked a stage-sized triangle of lights as it ascended above The Weeknd, clad in all-black and pacing the stage by his lonesome. His band hid under stage lights with deep reds and purples and black, except for the occasional geometric light projection or wash of pastels. Opening with the inescapable bummer jam "The Hills" and new, intense dance single "False Alarm," The Weeknd weaved through his recent catalog of hits — elevated by an occasional guitar solo — concluding with a crowd-pleasing "Can't Feel My Face" and new anthem "Starboy."

The Weeknd's brooding, emotional and sex- and drug-fueled slow jams seem better fit for a more intimate stage. Here, they work, in a breathless hourlong set with the occasional Daft Punk-annointed synth pop song and backdrop with a huge stage production. A tight band and big lights and pyrotechnics make up for the existential dread. By "Can't Feel My Face." an older couple had wiggled its way into the crowd to dance among grinding 20-somethings.

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